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Chris Kelly: A Dream Role Or A Nightmare?

February 27, 2019
KELLY: A Dream Role Or A Nightmare?

“I’m off the deep end, watch as I dive in/ I’ll never meet the ground/ Crash through the surface, where they can’t hurt us/ We’re far from the shallow now.” — “Shallow,” from “A Star is Born.”

As Hollywood rolled out the red carpet for the 91st Academy Awards, Vegas oddsmakers pegged Glenn Close as the runaway favorite to win the Oscar for Best Actress.

Close went into Sunday’s annual celebration of self-worship and mass distraction as the most-nominated living actor to never win — 7 tries, no trophies.

She lost again, which raises a stumper for local prognosticators: What were the odds that Tom Borthwick would be awarded a seat on the Scranton School Board before Glenn Close won an Oscar?

Glenn Close is a living legend who can earn an Oscar nomination just by showing up.

Tom Borthwick auditioned to join the region’s costliest fantasy factory a staggering eight times over eight years and didn’t land his dream role until Monday night.

All the stars were out for Borthwick’s premier, except Gopal Patel, who resigned Monday. Patel’s 15 minutes of fame began in December, when the board appointed him without seeking applicants or allowing public comment — a violation of the state’s Sunshine Act.

Patel missed an entertaining production. The meeting played out like a by-the-numbers romantic comedy starring former board president Bob Lesh as a jaded graybeard who falls for a spunky newcomer with empty pockets and a head full of rainbows.

Even Bob Bolus — the DeNiro of Disgruntlement — put in a cameo as a growling sourpuss with a grudge against the newcomer. Steamed that Borthwick insulted him on social media, Bolus hungrily chewed scenery and spit it at Borthwick, who stayed in character and stuck to the script.

Five people tried out, but Borthwick’s toughest competition was Catherine Fox, student life coordinator/veterans adviser and adjunct professor at Lackawanna College. On paper, Fox seemed like a shoo-in, like Glenn Close auditioning to play Glenn Close.

In a movie about Glenn Close.

Fox was educated in Scranton schools. She has a daughter and family being educated in Scranton schools. She receives no financial benefit from the Scranton School District.

Borthwick’s wife is a Scranton teacher. He was the only candidate with a financial interest in the district. Unfortunately, Fox used a handful of “big words,” which for some directors pushes the “Paige” button. She came in a close second to Borthwick, whose elated expression echoed Sally Field after her 1984 Best Actress win for “Places in the Heart.”

“You like me! You really like me!”

That’s a new position for some directors. Lesh, for instance, has never been shy about Not Liking Tom Borthwick. But Bob voted for Tom and there they sat, side by side in sudden harmony. I imagined the pair breaking out in a duet of “Shallow,” ala Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper.

They brought the house down at the Oscars. An ongoing criminal investigation of the district threatens to rain fire on the producers of the district’s financial, ethical and educational meltdown.

I called Borthwick on Tuesday to congratulate him and wish him well. He promised to be earnest in exposing the district’s chronic corruption to sunlight. A good place to start is producing a valid copy of the district’s costly no-bid busing contract, which state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale called the worst he’s ever seen.

The Times-Tribune has been seeking a clean copy for years. Neither the district nor DeNaples Transportation has produced one. The best version the district provided so far is clearly and clumsily forged.

Borthwick said he would make it a priority. I take him at his word and offer a word of warning in return. Playing both sides of the aisle is how stars are burned.

CHRIS KELLY, the Times-Tribune columnist, is a failed screenwriter. Contact the writer: kellysworld@timesshamrock.com, @cjkink on Twitter. Read his award-winning blog at timestribuneblogs.com/kelly